Guide Boston Municipal Court FAQs Related to COVID-19

Frequently asked questions about the Boston Municipal Court related to coronavirus (COVID-19). Last updated May 4, 2020.

Table of Contents

General FAQs

 Q. Are the courts open? 

A. Yes, courts are considered essential business and are open, however, courthouses are closed to the public except to address Emergency Matters that cannot be held by phone or videoconference and to post bail between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Some courts may also hear certain non-Emergency Matters. You should contact your individual court by phone or email to find out what non-Emergency Matters are being heard. Email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages (Brighton, Central, Charlestown, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, West Roxbury), click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address and main phone number.

The following are included as Emergency Matters in Boston Municipal Court Department Standing Order 6-20: Limiting appearances in Boston Municipal Courthouses to Emergency Matters

  • Civil commitment hearings for those with an alcohol or substance use disorder pursuant to G.L. c. 123, § 35
  • Protection Orders (e.g., Abuse Prevention Orders, Harassment Prevention Orders)

Access to a courthouse is also permitted for the posting of bail and issues related to Electronic Monitoring.

See Boston Municipal Court Department Standing Order 6-20 for a complete list of Emergency Matters and Non-Emergency Matters that may be held at this time. 

Q. What do I do if my local courthouse is temporarily closed due to COVID 19?

You can find information regarding temporary court closures at: Temporary court closures due to COVID-19You can also call the Trial Court Help Line at 833-91COURT.

Even if your local court is temporarily closed, there are procedures in place for Emergency Matters to be handled remotely by telephone.

Q. How can I file something in the Boston Municipal Court? 

A. Please contact the specific court to determine how and in which cases each Clerk’s Office will be accepting pleadings and/or documents related to Emergency Matters and certain Non-Emergency Matters. Courts are also accepting certain filings as submitted through the eFile system. Please see eFiling in the Boston Municipal Court Department.

The courts are operating with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. The best way to reach court staff is to email the Clerk’s Office but you may also call the main phone number to the courthouse.

Email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location contact pages (Brighton, Central, Charlestown, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, West Roxbury), click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address and main phone number.

Q. Can I speak to someone in person at a specific Clerk’s Office?

A. Courts are operating with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. The best way to communicate directly with a specific Clerk’s Office is to email them using the email address listed on each Boston Municipal Court location pages. You may also call the main number to the courthouse listed on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages.

Q: I had a hearing using a conference call line. Can I use this number to contact the Clerk’s Office directly?

A: No. The conference call lines are for court hearings only.  The best way to reach court staff is by the general email address located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location contact pages. You may also call the main number to the courthouse listed on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages

Q. Can I access my case online?

A. The following civil case types can be accessed and viewed via MassCourts.

  • Civil
  • Small Claims
  • Summary Process
  • Supplementary Process

Q. What should I do if I was scheduled for Jury Duty? 

A. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered that all jury trials, in both criminal and civil cases, are postponed until July 1, 2020. If you were scheduled for jury duty before Monday, May 4, your jury duty has been cancelled. You won’t be summoned again until 2021, at the earliest.

If you’re scheduled to appear for jury duty on July 1, 2020 or later, you are on Standby, meaning you may or may not have to serve. You’ll receive more information from the Office of Jury Commissioner about your service as your date gets closer.

Q. My case is supposed to go to trial – will I be able to have a jury trial?

A. By order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, all jury trials have been continued to a date on or after July 1, 2020. 

If the parties and the court agree that the case can be decided by a bench trial (a case where the judge serves as the fact-finder instead of a jury) without the need for in-person appearance in court, it is possible that your trial may proceed.  If you have questions about your trial, you should contact the Clerk’s Office. The best way to communicate with the Clerk’s Office is to email them using the email address listed on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages. You may also call the main number to the courthouse listed on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages. If you’re represented by a lawyer, you should speak with your lawyer about the status of your case.

Q. I tried to email the Clerk’s Office, but no one responded. How can I make sure my email is being received by the Clerk’s Office?

A. The courts are operating with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. We have created a general email account for each Clerk’s office. Please use that email and a member of the Clerk’s office staff will respond to you as soon as possible. Email information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages, click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address.

Civil FAQs

Q. What constitutes an emergency in a civil case?

A. Under Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 6-20, the following are considered civil Emergency Matters:

  • 209A (Restraining Order) and 258E (Harassment Prevention) petition applications
  • petitions for Extreme Risk Protection Orders
  • mental health hearings

Q. What if I have an emergency?

A. How your emergency request will be handled may vary by court. Please contact the Clerk’s Office at your local court by using the general email address or main phone number for more information. Email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages. Click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address and main phone number.

Q.  I have a restraining order and it is about to expire. What do I do?

All emergency protection orders (G.L. c. 209A; G.L. c. 258E; G.L. c. 140) that were due to expire on or after March 16, 2020 remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court.  You will receive notice of any future court hearing dates that you must attend if you want a restraining order to last longer.

If you need help or support or have questions about abuse, you can also contact SafeLink, the Massachusetts statewide toll-free domestic violence hotline. The SafeLink toll-free number is (877) 785-2020. If you are hearing-impaired, please call the SafeLink TTY number at (877) 521-2601.

Q. I have a hearing date. Will it be held?

A. Except for emergencies, and some non-emergency cases, any civil matter (including civil motor vehicle cases) scheduled through June 1, 2020 will be re-scheduled to some date on or after June 1, 2020. You will receive notice from the court with the new date.

You should contact your attorney, if you have one, or the Clerk’s Office by using the general email address or main phone number for more information. Court email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages.

Please refer to Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 6-20 for further information.

Criminal FAQs

Q. What constitutes an emergency?

A.  Under Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 6-20, the following are considered criminal Emergency Matters:

  • hearings for Order of Pretrial Detention pursuant to G.L. c. 276, § 58A (dangerousness hearing);
  • arraignments of new arrests in which the arrestee is in custody
  • warrant removals for persons in custody
  • probation violations where detention is sought 
  • search warrants
  • motions seeking the court reconsider a person’s custodial status
  • applications for arrest warrants

Q.  I have a hearing date, will it be held?

A.  As of May 4, some courts are hearing both Emergency and non-Emergency Matters.  If your court date is scheduled for May 4 or later, you should check with your attorney, if you have one, regarding the status of your case. If you do not have an attorney, contact the Clerk’s Office closer to your court date. The best way to contact the Clerk’s Office is by using the general email address or main phone number for more information. Court email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages.

All criminal matters, including show cause hearings and summons arraignments, that are not heard by telephone or videoconference by a court and were scheduled for an event between March 18, 2020 and June 1, 2020, are continued until a date not before June 1, 2020.

Q. My family member is held on bail, can I get a bail review?

A. Yes, if the bail was set in one of the eight Boston Municipal Courts, bail reviews by the Superior Court are being scheduled and conducted by video. You should contact your lawyer for additional information.

Q. My family member is ready to post bail, but he has an order requiring GPS prior to his release. My family member is not being transported to court. Can I get this GPS condition changed so he can post bail?

A. It is possible that the Court may change a bail condition. However, it will require a hearing. You should contact the lawyer to see how to proceed.

Q. I have a warrant, can I come to court to remove the warrant?

A. The process of removing an active warrant may vary by court. Before going to a courthouse, please contact the Clerk’s Office for more information by using the general email address or main phone number found on the Boston Municipal Court location pages.

Q: Can I still have my criminal record expunged?

A: Expungement Petitions are not considered Emergency Matters. If a matter on your criminal record is interfering with your housing or employment situation, please call the Clerk's Office where the matter occurred to seek further information. You can reach the Clerk’s Office by using the general email address or main phone number. Court email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages.

Q. My case is supposed to go to trial, will I be able to have a jury trial?

A. By order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, all jury trials have been continued to a date after July 1, 2020. You should speak with your lawyer about the status of the case.

Q. I am on Probation and I need to leave the state due to a family emergency. Can I have my probation conditions changed?

A. You should contact your probation officer. The Court may be able to handle this matter administratively without a hearing if the District Attorney and probation do not have an objection. If there is an objection, a video or telephone conference will be arranged. Probation offices can be reached by calling the main phone number for the court.  Courthouse telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages.

Q. Can I make payments in person at the courthouse?

A. Right now courthouses are closed to the public until at least June 1, 2020 and are only open for Emergency Matters. No fees or fines can be paid at a courthouse at this time.  Payment due dates have been extended to June 15, 2020. If you wish, you can make a payment online using the ePay System, by visiting ePay in the Courts.

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